Scrub nurse responsibilities

Updated July 18, 2017

The scrub nurse has an important role during surgery. As a part of a team of trained professionals, a scrub nurse will be sure that sterile techniques are used throughout the surgery and advocate patient safety. They may be a surgical technologist or registered nurse and are trained to assist the surgeon and help provide an optimal outcome to the procedure.

Preparation and Organization

Organization is important to all things in medicine and the operating room is not any different. The scrub nurse goes into the operating room to set the room up and set up the sterile field before the procedure begins. The room is set up differently according to the specific surgery. Correct instruments and materials are placed in the room by the scrub nurse so that leaving the operating room during the procedure and potentially breaking the sterile field is avoided. They also check that needed equipment is in good working condition for a smooth process.


The scrub nurse must actually be scrubbed in to assist with the surgery. This includes a thorough surgical hand-to-elbow scrub with a dedicated soap and the donning of the surgical attire. Attire includes sterile gloves, gown, head covering and protective eyewear. Once the surgeon and surgeon's assistant arrive in the operating room, the scrub nurse will assist them in putting on their sterile gowns and gloves. To decrease risk of infection for the patient, the scrub nurse focuses on maintaining sterile technique throughout the procedure.


A very important step in a surgery is the counting of instruments and materials such as sponges and needles to be used. The count must be done before the first incision is made. The scrub nurse and circulating nurse do the count together and both sign to verify the number.

Assisting Surgeon

A good scrub nurse is able to anticipate the needs of the surgeon. The scrub nurse must know the correct use of all instruments and pass the instruments to the surgeon in a specific way. They are allowed to use the suction equipment to clear the surgery site as needed. If a specimen is wanted, the surgeon will give it to the scrub nurse to handle and label correctly.

Post Procedure

The count of sponges, needles, and instruments is done again with the circulating nurse and the surgeon is notified of the count. This count must be correct. It is vital to ensure that no foreign objects are left inside of the patient. The scrub nurse may help the circulating nurse with transporting the patient into a recovery area.

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About the Author

A South Carolina native, Taryn Mathis, has been writing since 2007. She holds an associate's degree in nursing from Piedmont Technical College and maintains her license and continuing education in her field.